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More states consider ban on driverless trucks

Bills in three states would require a human operator

Posted January 19, 2024

Debate over the future of autonomous trucks is heating up. Legislators in three states — California, Indiana, and New York — have recently introduced bills that would require a human operator on any autonomous truck operating in their state.

The bills are backed by labor unions concerned about jobs and some safety advocates concerned about crashes involving driverless trucks.

“With new technology on the horizon and more self-driving vehicles being used on our roadways, it is important our laws reflect these changes to keep Hoosiers safe," said Indiana Sen. Jim Tomes. “Driverless vehicles, especially large trucks, could pose a danger on our public roads if not monitored properly.”

  • Indiana Senate Bill 57 would require a qualified human operator to be physically present within an automated commercial vehicle if it is being used to transport passengers or goods. The operator must be able to take control of the vehicle if necessary.
  • New York Senate Bill S.7758 would require a licensed driver to be present inside of any operating autonomous vehicle weighing 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Similarly, in California, a new assembly bill soon to be filed will require a trained human operator behind the wheel of any autonomous vehicle (AV) weighing 10,000 pounds or more, according to an announcement from the Teamsters. In addition, Senate Bill 915 would require AV companies to get approval from local authorities prior to starting operations in a given municipality.

The California measure comes just months after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill that would have banned driverless trucks on state roads for nearly a decade. The veto was issued despite widespread support in the California legislature.

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA) applauded the California governor’s veto, with AVIA executive director Jeff Farrah saying the veto would allow “California’s safety experts [to] continue to evaluate autonomous vehicle technology and consider appropriate regulatory action.”

The group argues that AVs can further innovation, reduce crashes, and ease supply chains. Early this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is expected to propose rule changes to account for the use of commercial vehicles equipped with automated driving systems.

This article was written by Daren Hansen of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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